istock 1001515804 1 Our endless sunny days in Santa Ana should always be open to the tasty possibilities of popsicles, ice cream, and even a lemon-lime Slurpee. But when you anticipate cooling off with those foods does it make you cringe just a bit? Tooth sensitivity to cold is a common problem — 57 percent of adults between 20 and 50 reporting some degree of cold sensitivity. What’s behind this sensitivity?

Some of the things behind tooth sensitivity are due to the individual, but Dr. Fong and his team can help with many of the causes. Here’s some more information so that you don’t have to go without that rocky road ice cream cone forever.

Causes of sensitive teeth

There are a number of factors that can cause a tooth to become sensitive to cold. Most cold sensitivity occurs at or near the neck of the tooth or at the gumline. This happens because the dentin, the inner portion of the tooth, becomes exposed due to wear on the outer enamel. Also, it can be due to an exposed root surface (below the gum line), a cavity, or a loose filling. Most tooth sensitivity comes from an exposed root.

How do roots become exposed?

The crown of the tooth, the part above the gum line, is covered by enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, so it provides great protection. But the roots don’t have enamel. They are covered by cementum, and beneath it, the dentin.

These factors can lead to a root being exposed:

  • Overly aggressive toothbrushing
  • Clenching or grinding the teeth
  • Erosion due to acid
  • Orthodontic treatments

How does Dr. Fong help with tooth sensitivity?

When checking for what’s behind your sensitive teeth, Dr. Fong will evaluate your tooth and suggest various treatment options — some are simple, some more involved.

  • Using a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth
  • In-office or home fluoride treatments — fluoride strengthens the enamel and the dentin, reducing sensitivity
  • Dietary changes — reducing acidic foods and drinks usually lessens sensitivity
  • Crowns or bonded fillings to cover the exposed root area
  • Pinhole gum treatment to cover the receding gums
  • Root canal

Since your receding gums could be to blame, it’s worth paying attention to them. Receding gums can be a sign of gingivitis and possible gum disease. Brushing too hard or with a toothbrush with firmer bristles can also make the gums recede, exposing the roots.

Some people have more sensitive teeth than others. But if you have noticed a recent change, we need to see you, as decay is likely entering the tooth. Call Dr. Fong at (714) 549-1903 to make an appointment.

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